Friday, February 05, 2010

Who Can Kill A Child?

If you make it through the first eight minutes of WHO CAN KILL A CHILD?, a 1976 Spanish horror movie by the Uruguayan director Narciso Ibanez Serrador, you should be good to go. The (too long) opening titles play over a documentary-style history lesson of dead children of the 20th century using real footage of wartime atrocities, including concentration camps. It’s a little much for what is ultimately a killer-kiddie flick (albeit a skillfully made one).

A British couple, medical biologist Tom (Lewis Fiander) and pregnant Evelyn (Prunella Ransome), vacationing in Spain, decide to get away from the noise, the crowds, and the murdered bodies washing on shore to the island of Almanzora. They rent a boat and arrive on the island to discover no adults are living there and the children are really weird. Yep, the kids went gonzo and killed all the grups. And guess who’s next on the menu?

It isn’t explained what caused the children to become murderous, though there are hints of a supernatural or maybe even extraterrestrial threat. Probably influenced by THE BIRDS and surely VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (AIP released it in the U.S. as ISLAND OF THE DAMNED in 1978, shorn of all subtitles and the original title sequence), Serrador’s very good film is marked by tremendous locations, fine performances, taut direction, tasteful violence (relatively, considering the circumstances), and a bonechilling score. An interesting theme is the townspeople’s reluctance to protect themselves because of their innate inability to harm children, even at the expense of their own lives.

I can’t recommend WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? or its Dark Sky DVD highly enough, though I suggest you skip the opening credits, which are too grim and jarring for even this apocalyptic nightmare. I bet the child actors had a lot of fun making it.


Andrew Byers said...

Sounds like a good flick, thanks Marty! Added it to my Netflix queue.

Arbogast said...

Yeah, this is a gem of percolating horror. Some familiar Spanish horror faces pop up in small roles but the British leads really do carry the thing. I never take a swing at a pinata without thinking of this movie!